Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 5: Mouth Trouble

Do any of your children ever struggle with not responding respectfully when you speak to them?

I didn't think so. Neither do mine. :)

Of course, the truth is, all children struggle at times with their MOUTH. (If we're really telling the truth, adults do, too!)

Disrespecting, back-talking, sassing, complaining, grumbling, fussing, whining, tattling......there are many ways for little ones to respond inappropriately with their mouths.

I want to share with you all two gentle, graceful ways to respond to our children AND teach them to use their mouths in age-appropiate, thoughtful, respectful ways. (I will split this post into two days.)


Proverbs 24:16, "A just man falleth SEVEN times, and riseth yet again....."

Matthew 18:21, 22, "Then Peter came to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

We serve a God of second-chances!

Now, we do not want to allow disrespectful or unkind words from our children to be ignored.

But, depending on the situation, it can be very helpful to immediately request a "re-do"; in other words---give them a second chance.

In our home, it would look something like this:

Let's say I call Noah (6) over to me and say, "Noah, I need you to pick up all of the toys in the living room, please." He responds with, "But Mo-oom! I didn't even play with those toys!" in a whiny tone of voice. I stop him, get eye-contact and say, "Noah, stop right now. Try again with RESPECT, please." Because he knows I will listen if he uses respect, he tries again, sweetly this time. "Mommy, I didn't play in the living room." I give him a quick hug and say, "I know you didn't, buddy. But I still need you to clean it up for me. What should you say to Mommy now?" He grins a bit sheepishly and replies, "Yes, Ma'am!" and off he runs.

Now, I know some of you are thinking----She just let him ARGUE with her!  I know you're thinking that, because there was a time when I thought the very same thing.:)

I have realized over the years, however, that my children are not ROBOTS. They do not exist to robotically move throughout the day, obeying my every whim and command. They are miniature people, with all of the same thoughts, feelings, and emotions that adults have---and with not nearly the same ability to process or control them.

Unless you have completely mastered the art of ALWAYS submitting to all authority without ever giving your opinion or asking for an appeal.......then do not expect your tiny little ones to be able to do so, either. Have high goals----but realistic expectations.

YES, they absolutely should obey your authority. And YES, there are many ways to teach them to do so! I am not encouraging you to let your children tell you what to do or control you. :)

What I AM encouraging you to do is to teach your children that you will be glad to listen to respectful words. (Sometimes that just equates to "Yes, Ma'am".) But then you really must take the time to listen to them when they talk. :)

You can SCRIPT the correct words for little ones by offering a "re-do" anytime they respond inappropriately.

There are FOUR STEPS to a really effective RE-DO.

1. Stop the child immediately. ("Lyssie, stop. Those are yucky words.")

2. Get good eye-contact. ("Look at Mommy.")

3. Ask them to try again with  respect. (With younger children, you may need to "script" the words for them, like this, "Lyssie, I need you to talk nicely to Mommy. Say, 'yes, Mommy'".)

4. Praise them! (No need to make a huge deal, but a simple "good words, sweetheart!" or "nice job of using respect!" can really bring a smile to your child's face. Don't underestimate the power of positive praise.)

You can use a re-do when a child argues, when they whine, when they say "NO", when they use the right words but the wrong tone, whenever they are struggling with making good choices with their MOUTH.

There are times when a re-do is all it takes to guide, teach, and correct your child. Don't take it to the "next level" if you don't need to.

Later in this series, I will explain what I do when a child does NOT respond to the re-do.

And tomorrow, I will share the SECOND gentle way to teach our children to respond appropriately with their mouths.

P.S. This technique is VERY helpful when dealing with older adopted children, especially when there is a language barrier. Learning English PLUS godly ways of responding to authority takes a long time and requires alot of re-do moments. I recommend making it a permanent tool in your "parenting tool box". :)


  1. I love this tool and am adding it in the tool bag starting tomorrow. Gavin and I are already seeing great results just with making eye contact with Tabitha when we want her to listen and practicing lap time. (I remember practicing lap time about 1-2 years ago after hearing you mention it but I didn't stay consistent. I'm definitely going to start earlier with Isabelle.)

  2. I am enjoying your series SO much! It is so important to view our child as a complex individual with many needs and not as a robot. I've noticed that sometimes defiance in an area of behavior may be a symptom of a specific need not being met and not always a sin issue that needs to be dealt with. I also really love your idea of practicing saying the right thing with your child which will in turn equip them to obey next time. Correct the wrong, practice the right!

  3. Duncan use to have excellent manners but since he started going through puberty (mainly in the last year) he seems to be forgetting all that we have taught him. So we have been doing the redo with him since the backtalking/whining started. We usually say something like "i'm sorry, could you please repeat that?" or "was that a respectful way to speak to us?" That usually is all that is needed and we often give a gentle reminder like "if you are unable to obey in the small things, will you be able to obey in the bigger ones?" or "learning to obey us, is how you learn to obey God." Its going okay so far but the other he's getting the more diligent we are having to be with curbing his mouth.
    Thank you Selina, for your daily words of wisdom!

  4. I think on this particular post often. I've caught myself treating the girls, especially Jocelyn (4) as she should obey "just because." I'm guilty of treating them all as well as many other issues brought to light by this blog, but God is working on me! ;D Thanks again, Selina. I remember the first time I read the scriptures about loving correction and reproof (Proverbs 12-15 and thereabouts) I couldn't really grasp how I was supposed to enjoy being corrected and reproofed. But, lo, I find myself joying in these posts, as they bring to light the things I'm struggling in and how I can change to better serve God through raising my children in a Godly manner! Blessings to you, Selina!


I welcome any and all comments as long as they are Christ-honoring. Please let me know what you think!